Access and Resources
Ross Lake Resort is open from mid-June to October; lodging costs $70-$260 per night. Round-trip transportation averages $16.
The Park Service advises visitors to use caution in the glacial meltwaters of northern Washington's Ross Lake, a 21-mile-long alpine lake hard by the Canadian border, but the three kids cannonballing off the dock where I was sweating in the sun didn't care. I looked hesitantly at the glaciers attached to nearby 9,066-foot Jack Mountain and then slipped, ungracefully, into the frigid azure water. Cheers erupted. I managed five gasping backstrokes. And then it was time to fish.
My dockmates piled into a wooden skiff with their dad and their fly rods and trolled away from Ross Lake Resort, a string of 15 floating wooden cabins connected by a serpentine dock and parked on the lake's south end. Founded in the 1950s, the resort is hemmed in by steep, dark evergreen forest and is the only structure in the Ross Lake National Recreation Area, a stretch of wilderness surrounded by North Cascades National Park. Getting to the unreachable-by-road resort is where the fun begins: After a three-hour drive from Seattle along the North Cascades Highway, we had boarded an old-fashioned Seattle City Light tugboat at Diablo Lakebearded, pipe-smoking captain at the helmand then chugged 30 minutes to a flatbed truck that hauled us two miles to a small dock on Ross Lake. From there, a runabout shuttled everyone and everything (bring your own food; there's no restaurant) across the lake to the resort.
We'd settled into our roomsaccommodations at Ross Lake range from two-person cabins equipped with kitchens, wood stoves, and bedding to a modern, nine-person chalet with enormous picture windows overlooking the lakeand rented our own skiff for the weekend ($70 per day). A few easy hiking trails lead to Ross Lake Dam and 6,107-foot Sourdough Mountain, but we fixed on the view north of us and planned to climb 6,102-foot Desolation Peak. So we boatedfollowed by a family of four traveling in kayaks ($31 per day)to the trailhead, casting for rainbows and cutthroat en route. At the summit, the kayaking family caught up with us, and the two youngest members of their expedition surveyed the lake for the best swimming holes to test at sunset.